The Veteran (2011)

England is teeming with terrorists, druggies and violent council estates where evil is seated on a throne fashioned out of sports hoodies. If recent British cinema has taught us anything (see Harry Brown and Heartless among many others), it’s that nowhere is safe. With The Veteran, we can add Post-Traumatic Stress-suffering war vets to that list of dangerous British ill-doers.

Set in a recognisably mucked-up, breeze-block crammed London, The Veteran follows Robert Miller (Toby Kebbell), a young soldier who returns from Afghanistan and soon realises that it won’t be as simple as all that to ease back into his old life. The battered council estate where he lives is infested with druggie yoofs, and before long Miller’s been contracted by Brian Cox’s mysterious government figure to monitor suspected terrorists. But could nation-straddling fellow operative Alayna (Adi Bielski) have turned into a terrorist sympathiser?

Cautionary tale, social commentary, bleak character study; The Veteran has its gun barrel aimed at all kinds of red letter targets, but it never quite hits the bull’s eye. The same can even be said for magnetic lead man Kebbell, whose Miller is an interesting character desperately searching for a plot. Kebbell (RockNRolla, Prince Of Persi) is undeniably enigmatic, a man’s man with soulful eyes, but his episodic encounters with dealers, victims and shady government types lack much discernable tension, and are crying out for a more urgent sense of direction.

Veteran’s final 10 minutes are the ones that will cause a stir in the headlines (we won’t spoil them here, though the Daily Mail are going to have a field day), but considering the whole film not-so-subtly builds up to them, their power is decidedly muted. Kebbell’s a young actor going places, for sure. Unfortunately this home-grown cautionary-character-commentary just isn’t ballsy enough to take him all the way. 2/5

Via Out In The City

Ironclad (2011)

It’s the curse of every post-Gladiator swords-and-scrapper that it has to crawl out from under that film’s hulking shadow. Such is the plight of Ironclad, which should come with its own medieval movie check list. Giant swords? Yep. A gruff, beleaguered hero? Of course. Colossal, bloody skirmishes? Right on. The writers have even chosen a suitably obscure but nevertheless fascinating period of history to recreate, GCSE Bitesize-style (with added body parts) as we follow the fall-out from the Magna Carta’s inception.

The year is 1215. Unruly King John (Paul Giamatti) has been forced to sign the Magna Carta, which guarantees each man freedom unto himself. But Johnny isn’t happy. Bile-filled and raving, he calls on a Viking army to help him regain power – and will spill all the blood he needs to that end. Luckily, Baron Albany (Brian Cox) is having none of it, assembling a band of not-so-merry men to face down the King. Among them are a morally tortured Templar Knight (James Purefoy) and Jason Flemying’s battle-hardened Beckett.

With much of the action taking place at Rochester castle, the last bastion of liberty against King John’s tyranny, it’s all a bit like a period version of Panic Room. After an initial introductory chapter, Ironclad sets up shop at Rochester, where King John and his Vikings spend the entire movie attempting to raze the fortress to the ground and quash the Baron’s forces.

Which is fine, because despite the flat characters and ropey dialogue, Ironclad comes up trumps with its grisly set pieces. Blades in guts. Boiling oil baths. At one point a character even has both feet and hands cut off. Ironclad is probably the bloodiest film you’ll see in cinemas this year. That, and a typically radiant Giamatti, are the only reasons to buy a ticket. Otherwise, Gladiator’s crown rests easy. 3/5

Via Out In The City